The Shakedown Dive

Expedition Log #3

Reported for: 8 July 2003

Reported by: Holly S. Lohuis

Latitude: 23 degrees 34.4 minutes N.
Longitude: 164 degrees 42.2 minutes W.

Location: Necker Island (Mokumanamana)

Weather: Partly cloudy

Sea conditions: 6’-8’ seas with N-NE winds at 20-25 knots as we approached the island. On the leeward side we found little protection because both the wind and swell were wrapping around the small island and made for very confused seas for our first dive.

Plan for the day: 
First official dive of our expedition in the NWHI.

From Paul Atkins, Director of Photography: "Today's dive was our shakedown dive, which helped us spot problems we need to iron out early on in the expedition to help us achieve productive dives and produce good footage during our next four weeks of diving. We had a few environmental factors working against us, such as fairly strong winds and rough sea conditions. Because the leeward side of the island did not offer us much protection, the Searcher crew decided it was too rough to launch the zodiacs. With Don Santee's input, we decided to dive from the Searcher itself. We all suited up on the aft deck and when we were ready, we stood on the swim platform waiting for the captain to maneuver the vessel close to the island. At Don's signal we all made a plunge into the water at the same time."

Quote of the day
 From Paul Atkins: "Things can only go up from here!"

Mission of the day: 
To execute our first official dive in the NWHI.

Underwater cameramen: Paul Atkins- DP and Yves Lefevre

On-camera divers: Jean-Michel Cousteau and Holly Lohuis

Underwater lights: Matt Ferraro and Blair Mott

Still photography: Tom Ordway

Guide and coral reef biologist with USFWS: Jim Maragos

Safety divers topside: Don Santee, Ed Cassano and Tove Petterson

Mokumanamana has a land area of 0.16 square km, making it the second smallest island of the NWHI, but its surrounding marine habitats total 1,538 square km to a depth of 100m, the second largest in the NWHI!
What's good: 
To be back in the water after two non-stop days of traveling. It always takes a few days to get sea legs and even though we have not had anyone seasick, some of us have felt fatigued due to the continuous motion of the boat.
What's bad: 
One of our main concerns is that when diving under rough sea conditions, requiring the use of Searcher as our dive platform, it is critical that we all surface as one team. There are on-camera divers, cameramen, divers with lighting equipment, divers wrangling power supply cables and safety divers. There is so much going on at once, not to mention the gorgeous underwater life, and we all must focus on the tasks we've been assigned, as well as pay attention to our chief diver, Blair. It is his job to call the end of the dive if there's a technical problem with the cameras or a low-on-air situation with any of the divers. When he gave us the 'end of the dive' signal today, a few divers didn’t surface. So, by the end of the dive, the group was separated and ended up surfacing in two separate teams, one team without an inflatable "sausage," the signaling device that lets the boat know where they are and that they’re ready to be picked up.
We also had a few technical glitches with the underwater housing and underwater lights that delayed our getting close-up shots of some rare fish. This is all part of what it takes to create documentaries in the field, and the team takes it in stride and is developing solutions to these issues.
What's fun
We had a great time just being in the water! Our guide, Jim Maragos, was excited to point out a rare fish, the Spotted Knifejaw, Oplegnathus punctatus, which is only occasionally seen in deep waters around the Main Hawaiian Islands. Here in the NWHI, we see them in shallow water! At Mokumanamana we sighted a few at 30’.
What's a bummer: The Searcher crew did an outstanding job in maneuvering the boat close to the island, but because a few of us surfaced too close to the island for the Searcher to safely pick us up, we had a long distance swim to the boat. Once the boat could approach us and after they put their engines in neutral, we had to kick as hard as we could to catch the ship, which was slowly moving away from us, and swim against the prop wash! This is when we’re glad to have specialized fins developed for this kind of situation. When set in "power mode," you have the forceful acceleration needed to swim against strong currents. After three separate pick-ups, we were all safely on board.
Rest and relaxation activities
: According to Paul Atkins, "I have not discovered them yet!"